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LSU cheer coach, 4 others hurt in boat crash

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Posted: Aug 29, 2011 6:00 PM by Rachel Frost
Updated: Aug 29, 2011 6:39 PM
Source: WBRZ

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Topics: LSU, cheerleading, coach, injured, boat, crash, Chico Garcia

ST. AMANT, La. - Members of the LSU cheerleading squad got updates today on the condition of their assistant coach, 29-year-old Chico Garcia, who was hurt in a boat crash over the weekend.

"He was pretty much paralyzed from the neck down. It's going to be a long road. He's going to be in the hospital for a minimum of three to four months," said former LSU Cheerleader Jason Amadeo.

Two other adults and two minors were injured when their boat crashed Saturday into a pier on the Diversion Canal near the Tiki Hut in St. Amant.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries identified the other people injured in the crash as Jack Riffle, 41; Elizabeth Riffle, 44; a 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. They were all taken to the hospital with moderate to serious injuries. Garcia was airlifted to the hospital because of his injuries.

Wildlife and Fisheries agents are investigating what caused Jack Riffle to lose control of the boat and crash into the pier. On a website posted for Garcia, called Get Well Chico, his mother says the accident happened after they were cut off by another boat.

Garcia cheered at LSU from 2002 to 2006 and has been an assistant coach since then.

"Cheerleading at LSU is his life," said Head Coach Pauline Zernott. "I can't imagine not having him at our practices. I mean he runs half the practices, I run half the practices. We work hand in hand."

The team plans to take videos of practices to the hospital for Garcia to watch so he can continue to coach the squad.

LSU Cheerleading is in the process of making "Cheering for Chico" t-shirts to sell and raise money to help pay for his medical bills. The team is also planning a concert benefit and a blood drive.

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